16 National Organizations Cite Crisis in Mental Health System, Release Roadmap for Reform | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Posted on July 27, 2005

Washington, DC — Today at the U.S. Capitol, the Campaign for Mental Health Reform released "Emergency Response: A Roadmap for Federal Action on America’s Mental Health Crisis." The coalition of 16 national organizations proposed 28 action steps as a "roadmap" for Congress and the Administration to transform the country's ailing mental health care system.

The Campaign, representing millions of Americans, came together after President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health released its groundbreaking report in July 2003, "Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. In that report, the 22 Commissioners found the U.S. mental health system "fragmented and in disarray, lead[ing] to unnecessary and costly disability, homelessness, school failure and incarceration. The Commission called for a "fundamental transformation of the Nation’s approach to mental health care."

"Yet, since the release of the Commission's report," said Michael Faenza, President and CEO of the National Mental Health Association, "63,000 Americans have died by suicide; more than 200,000 Americans with mental illnesses have been incarcerated; more than 25,000 families have given up custody of their children in order to get mental health services; juvenile detention centers have spent $200 million ‘warehousing’ youth in juvenile justice facilities instead of providing treatment; and the American economy has lost more than $150 billion in productivity due to unaddressed mental health needs."

In all, there are an estimated 20 million adults and 6 million children and teenagers in the U.S. with serious mental illness. The Campaign for Mental Health Reform seeks to make mental health a national priority and to make early access, recovery and quality in mental health services the hallmarks of our nation’s mental health system.

"Our model for action is the bipartisan commitment to combating the public health crisis of youth suicide embodied in the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which Congress swiftly enacted and funded last year," said Campaign Director Charles S. Konigsberg. Named for Senator Gordon Smith’s son who died by suicide, the law provides Federal funds for youth suicide prevention initiatives. "By identifying people at risk of suicide and getting mental health services to them in a timely way, this law will prevent suicides; it will save lives," said Jerry Reed, Executive Director of the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (SPAN USA).

Commenting on the broad scope of the Campaign, Konigsberg said: "War veterans and 9/11 first-responders with traumatic stress; children suffering with disorders that, untreated, can lead to school failure;people with severe depression that can lead to suicide; homeless adults suffering hallucinations and hunger; people suffering in silence due to stigma or lack of accessible treatment—all deserve the hope, dignity and promise of productive lives."

"The Campaign’s report provides a detailed action plan for the Federal government to more effectively coordinate and align Federal, state, and local resources to get the right services to the right people at the right time," said Michael Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. "The time is now to make the promise of the New Freedom Commission a reality."

Among the 28 action items included in the Roadmap report are proposals by the Campaign to:

  • end discrimination by health insurance plans through enactment of parity legislation this year;
  • better utilize Medicaid dollars by providing cost-effective home- and community-based care in lieu of institutional care, and permitting states to utilize Medicaid dollars for comprehensive treatment plans;
  • allow families to buy-into Medicaid to access services for a child with a disability;
  • end the unconscionable and costly "warehousing" of youth with mental disorders;
  • end discrimination against mental health treatment in Medicare, which requires higher co-payments for mental health outpatient care and limits inpatient hospital coverage for mental health treatment;
  • provide early identification and effective treatment for returning veterans at risk of post-traumatic stress disorders and their families;
  • provide early detection and intervention services to mothers and children who receive health care at federally funded maternal and child health clinics;
  • permit presumptive eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid for people who are homeless and have a serious mental illness; and
  • fund programs to divert people with mental illnesses who have committed nonviolent crimes into treatment instead of jail or prison.

Last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released "The Federal Action Agenda: First Steps" to follow-up on the Commission’s call for transforming America’s mental health system. The Campaign for Mental Health Reform views as a positive development SAMHSA’s coordination of multiple Federal agencies in developing an agenda to follow-up on the Commission and commends the leadership of Administrator Charles Curie and Director Kathryn Power. 

Mental health organizations representing millions of Americans, their families, and service providers have come together in an unprecedented coalition to establish the Campaign for Mental Health Reform. The Campaign seeks to make mental health a national priority and early access, recovery and quality in mental health services the hallmarks of our nation’s mental health system.


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